Monday, April 14, 2014

Has the Easter Bunny Been Extra Nice To You?

Ahhh it’s chocolate time… ahem, I mean Easter Another worldwide celebration, that equates to food. For dieters across the globe it’s pesky Easter and Christmas that throws that spanner in the works, derailing their best intentions.

Mr Easter bunny this year has come 2 months early in fact! I personally have witnessed Mr Bunny leaving his Easter eggs and hot cross buns in the super market in February - better get in early than late I guess?

Mean while, you have had to deal with that sweet stench of buttery goodness each time you walk past the bakery store, oh Easter come sooner!

I sound like I hate Easter, but I really don’t. I’m just teasing, I know a lot of my clients struggle with celebratory times and have real addictions to hot cross buns and chocolate eggs. You know what? It happens to the best of us, Easter egg addiction is a serious issue.

As always though, I’m hear to help you figure it out- Too eat chocolate eggs or not eat eggs? Now that it the ultimate question!

Let’s set something straight first. Eating Easter eggs at Easter time is no problem at all if you moderate what you’re eating. However eating hot cross buns and chocolate eggs for weeks leading up to Easter is probably not a good idea.  

Let's put a numerical value to it.

1 bakers delight medium hot cross bun = 230kcal, 4g fat, 43g carbs
50g milk chocolate egg                         = 255kcal, 13g fat, 31g carbs           

As you can see the numbers are quite high. Now thinking about the way we typically eat these food items: in between meals, on the fly, as snacks, with lunch etc They can quickly add to a growing waist line.           

Top tips to avoid the bunny belly:

1. Share your chocolate! Sharing the love means you get less yummy goodness, but you will be sharing calories too.

2.  Save your eggs for Easter Sunday when they’re supposed to be eaten. Hiding excess chocolate in the freezer or covered in a container in the cupboard assists with keeping them “out of sight, out of mind”.     
3.  Re-gift and recycle. This is my favorite; give them to some one who is good at controlling their food, or to people at work. That way you save money buying Easter gifts and you don’t have to eat them. 

4.  Plan to throw a chocolate fondue party or high tea for some ones birthday in the near future. Save the chocolate so you can melt it down for future use. That way you can share the chocolate love in a delayed fashion and everyone in your friendship circle doesn’t end up with chocolate over load over Easter.

5. Get active! Now that you have a few days off over the Easter break get out doors and do something fun; bike ride, bush walk, get down to the beach or pool. All the extra activity will help burn off the extra calories from eating all the eggs.

 Happy Easter egg hunting!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FILEX 2014

This weekend, I flew into Melbourne for my 5th year in a row attending the FILEX fitness expo. I was honoured to have my application to speak at the conference accepted. Speaking at FILEX has been a life long goal since I became a fitness instructor and trainer 10 years ago.

To give you a brief update, for those who don’t know FILEX is the fitness industries biggest event of the year, it not only includes the trade show where you can pick up all sorts of pills, powders and gym equipment but personal trainers and group fitness instructors, who attend lectures to accumulate continuing education points.

Most of the presenters work in the area of academia or clinical practice in allied health working in niche areas of rehab, nutrition or sports. It’s a great opportunity to network, learn new things and practice what you learn.

One of my favourite speakers is Paul Taylor, who now resides in the area of academia and public speaking. His presentation and ideas about nutrition where intriguing.  Paul’s current studies reside in the area of neuroscience, an area I am quite interested in and read a lot about. If you’re looking for a good book to start with, read “TheBrain That Changes Itself”.

As Paul discussed up and coming research about stress, gut bacteria and obesity, he mentioned a little neat fact about the concept of will power. He went on to say will power is developed through the right frontal lobe part of the brain. This area is also the part that’s involved when we exercise. Performing exercise on a regular basis trains the part of the brain that we will use for will power. It’s quite a novel concept, but the application of this is huge.

Think about it, if you’re having trouble with your nutrition and choosing the right foods because your will power is low, the best thing to do would be to exercise. Not only for the calorie burn and discipline developed from exercise, but it will also assist to build will power. Later, this can be used to say “no” to the extra slice of cake.    

He also followed my sentiments with detox diets - they are essentially a load of rubbish.  However, if you’re looking at a way to cleanse the body, eat broccoli, garlic and ginger, then start exercising till you sweat. 

The veggies mentioned above contain naturally occurring poisons in which the body has to clear. This process makes your immune system work better, not to mention all the anti-oxidants and nutrients they contain.

Exercising till you sweat is also a natural way to excrete toxins from the body. The skin, as an organ, excretes all sorts of waste products in our sweat. Sounds gross, but how good do you feel after you had a good sweaty gym session?

I know for me, on occasions where I have been stubborn, I have continued to train with a virus. Five times out of ten, exercising actually got rid of it. Don’t know if there’s any science in that - but it works for me!

I later attended a presentation by Donna McCook, who did a nice summary on how the current way we train for core stability may be too advanced for most people. She even goes so far to say that not only trainers have it wrong, but so do physio's and exercise physiologists.  She specialises in back pain and runs a specialised clinic in Brisbane, which she started after a 7 year stint teaching at the University of Queensland. She is both a physio and exercise physiologist herself.

Like anything, there is not one cause of back pain, however, she highlights that issues either develop from excessive moment (instability) or too much stiffness.  How do you tell which way you swing?

Well, a good indication is if people generally crack their back repetitively, it means there’s excessive movement in the spin. The joints in the thoracic area have too much movement. The cracking sound you hear are ligaments being stretched to full length and potentially slipping across bone, creating the noise. Too much movement means that other areas need to tighten up to keep the vertebrae in place.

The idea with this type of back condition, you would strengthen first, then lengthen. If you create extra flexibility without strengthening, you will be putting the spine into a vulnerable state with no stability whatsoever and cause more pain than when you first started.

If the flip side is true, your back contains too much stiffness. It’s generally because your stabilising muscles aren’t switching on properly (multifidus) and global muscles (erector spinae) are switching on too much and taking over the job.

Again, she pushes the idea of doing proper stability work first. Strengthen the right muscle groups, then lengthen via stretching to improve flexibility and spinal fluidity.

Planking, unfortunately, is the craze in the fitness industry, but it is an advanced move. She made a point by pulling out very robust trainers from the audience and asked them to do a very easy “switching on” the right “core” muscles and keeping their hips still through very simple exercises… and well, they couldn’t do it.

I’ve thrown planking out of my training toolbox for a while, till I build up from the basics again. Back to the drawing board!

Another Favourite of mine is Dr Len Kravitz. He is an exercise physiology lecturer from the USA. I was happy to learn that body builders have it right when it comes to strength training. The whole training concept of a body builder is to overload the muscles to the extreme by lifting heavy weights to cause muscle adaptation. Typically, the exercises aren’t functional.

Functional training is also another buzzword that has been popular in the fitness industry. A lot of programs, like cross fit, have developed from this concept. Functional meaning exercises that use the largest amount of muscle mass that we may perform in every day life or are multi jointed. There are limitations to this type of training though if you’re looking for extreme gains in muscle.

My style of training has always followed a body building routine. My very first weights program was written by an Australian pro body builder and I have never looked back. Sure, I give the functional thing a try, now and again, but I don’t feel it maintains my strength or power as much as my traditional body-building program. I have never met another female who can lift as much as me. No joke… Last year I won the gym bench-pressing competition between a power lifter, body sculptor and me, remember?

I digress…

Dr Kravitz goes on to say myotrauma, caused by training over load, causes inflammatory metabolic stress. People always thought this was a bad thing. Well, it’s not. Metabolic stress is what pushes the body to adapt and change, get stronger, fitter faster etc.

He also mentioned that one of the limitations of strength training is early fatigue, which may be caused by muscle acidosis. To combat this and get better at buffering acidosis from workouts, do high intensity cardio 2-3x week for 5 minutes pre workout. After a month or two of doing this you should be able to do more reps and sets. Bonus!  

This next point is highly relevant to me now, considering I have switched to the endurance based sport triathlon. He says the best strength training routine would include doing as many reps as possible with a load of 50% your body weight. It all makes sense, something I will have to try.

On a more global scale, the strength training protocols that have shown the best outcomes are structured in a periodised fashion. Where reps and sets vary within week. Periodisation programs do take a lot of planning and work. The bottom line with strength training is to keep training fresh all the time. If you do the same routines, sets and reps you will get nowhere fast. So mix it up.

I decided to make it a bit easier for myself and periodise week to week. This week 4-6 reps x 4 sets on my 3 day split concentrating on negative reps (eccentric training). Next week I’ll ramp it up to 8-10 reps, then try the 50% body weight routine the week after.  See how I go, and if anything changes?

Walking into the trade exhibition was its usual buzzing self. Loud music and buff people everywhere along with supplements, pills and merchandise. Years in the past I would walk around taste testing, buying new equipment, and staring in awe at the body builders.

I think times are changing for me. My perspective on supplements and fandangled whiz bang fitness equipment is definitely different. I don’t see a need for it. I see the development of supplements a waste of money and a scam (on the most part of course there are exceptions).

What I really thought was a welcomed positive change, was at least at the Melbourne trade show distributors used normal looking trainers and aerobics instructors as their equipment models. This, in comparison to the Sydney expo, where young promo girls were used to push supplements and equipment on the average punter using the sex sells marketing approach. Which really aggravates me.  Women are into fitness too!

In addition, I honestly believe if you’re trying to sell fitness equipment and supplements to industry professionals, use workers who live and breathe fitness and also use the products themselves. That way, they can pass on the knowledge and benefits of these products.  Nothing worse than talking to a promo guy or girl at a store, who knows how to smile, but nothing about the products, it’s very frustrating to the person who wants to find out more.

All in all, the FILEX conference, as always, was loads of fun and did provide me with a bit more insight about my own training and what I can focus on with clients.

Next stop: Adelaide, for the ESSA conference to discuss all things exercise rehab, chronic disease management and elite sports.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Looking For The Silver Lining In The Clouds

They say happiness is habit. Today I asked myself, why do all my “happy habits” seem to create no more happiness than when I first started looking into happiness as a concept?

Giving gratitude, keeping a journal, exercising regularly and doing meditation, is something I preach and practice all the time. No doubt you have heard it all before too.  However I still found myself every Monday to Wednesday these past few weeks feel so slumped, shunted and disillusioned. 

Last Monday was the 3rd in a row where I Googled the meaning of happiness. On this occasion I found some very insightful things. I’d like you share them with you, if you feeling a little slumped yourself.

My results from my Google search this week where actually pretty good- surprise, surprise I discovered a few websites Happify and Tiny Buddha that where really cool. I realised there are a few anti- happiness behaviours I am doing on a regular basis that I don’t even know about.

Let me run through the concepts that really stick with me, maybe you can find some truth in it too?

My biggest problem is waking up in the morning. Initially when I wake up, the first thoughts that go through my head, is how much my body hurts from training. If not this, then how much sleep I didn’t have and how tired I am feeling. From the  moment I wake up my thoughts are negative. As you can imagine this isn’t very productive to have a happy morning. 

Tip number 1- No matter how shit you feel, think of something other than that, make your thoughts some what  pleasant.

Secondly another ‘fun kill’ is limiting self-beliefs. Have you ever imagined how wonderful experiencing or doing XYZ is,  then the negative voice inside your head pipes up to tell you how crappy you are and how you can't do it? It happens to the best of us.

Personally have a stigma about my worthy ness to be heard and to voice opinion in my professional field. This comes down to the fact I don’t have Dr in front of my name and I don’t have a Phd. This is the basis of my limiting self-belief. Twice this year alone I have almost enrolled in uni again, to work my way towards that Dr title. When I stop and think about it again, I don’t think studying is going to make me happier. I just think its an excuse to get busier and to numb myself, by overloading my already over committed work life.

Numbing is a very interesting concept. A lot of People numb emotions through alcohol and drugs. Over achievers numb themselves by being extremely busy and over loaded with work. Being distracted and working all the time, you don't have time to be present and experience the world. You don’t have time to do anything. Do you numb?

Tip number 2 You are worthy, you just have to believe in yourself and kill that negative voice with more positive affirmations

Next on the hit list is sticking to ideals. In all areas of life you create this perfect image of how something is supposed to be like. Hate to break it to you, but life is not like this. We can try to create a ‘perfect’ life, but its often superficial and dysfunctional at best.

One hurdle I deal with most days of the week, is having the correct image as a trainer or dietitian. If I am so into health, shouldn’t I look like I am stepping out on a body building or bikini model stage? Logically I know this is hog wash, but this ideal is pushed on to professionals in the fitness industry all the time.  There is this perception that if a trainer doesn’t compete in aesthetic competitions then they won’t get clients or be successful.

 I agree it’s a good idea to keep yourself healthy and fit if your working in the health industry. Let's face it, practice what your preach, but you don’t have to look like GI Jane. Knowledge base and client rapport is more important - but of course my own wise words don’t apply to me. AHEM-

Tip number 3 You can’t be perfect, and ideals are stereotypes created by peoples own insecurities. Great things happen when we are outside of the norm. Be yourself.

Next is this overwhelming feeling that, if I'm not running around like a crazy woman all day, I am being lazy. I get the feeling that I am wasting time, wasting the day and I should have had XYZ completed by now.

I hate to break it to myself, but being lazy is not constituted as taking time out for a few hours to watch TV or surf the internet after working a 60hr week and training for 8-10hrs in my “free time”. You get the picture? It’s all about perspective.

Tip number 4 You are not being lazy if you take time out, enjoy it, relax and unwind.

Lastly this concept of PLAY comes up all the time. The happiest people are those that play. My first thought was, what do you mean by play? I do stuff I find enjoyable, like exercise... but  as I continue to find out, that’s not counted as play.

P - Permission to not be serious
L - let go of judgment
A - Acknowledge tension and resistance
Y- Say yes! 

Play is un-structured free time to do or not do enjoy able things, it's time to let your mind be creative and wander. You can part take in silly children’s games if that makes you happy.

Tip number 5  Allow some time for play

There’s also a few more things that may bring you happiness too, that doesn’t particularly have relevance to me, but it may for you?

  •               Aim to be debt free- start to budget, pay off your crap and stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s

  •        It’s ok to quit, find something else to work on that’s suits you better

  •           Acknowledge when your catastrophizing events. On a scale of 1-10, if 10 is where some one is dead and 1 is breaking a nail. Where does your problem lye? More often than not, your modern day issues like being late for work, sit around a 2-3.

Search for the silver lining in the clouds, look for more positive things to focus on. Find a few moments of quite time to give your mind a break and keep things in perspective.

So keep on, keeping on and I will too. I'll get de-slumped soon when I start to work on my new perspective :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nudge Your Way To Weight loss

One of the most difficult things modern man has to tackle is weight loss. There are so many conflicting messages out there, it’s hard to decide what type of approach you need to get things started. Instead of doing complete diet overhauls which many fad diets do, ika sugar free living, cave man style eating, shakes, veggie juices, swallowing weird berries or pills. May I suggest you try something a little easier? 

Nudge yourself into weight loss and fitness.

It’s hard to simplify the secret to long-term weight loss, because scientifically it can be very complicated. Research everyday is showing that multiple things may be going wrong for example: diet types, genetics and lifestyle. However what I have found is, the more you know about nutrition the more you realise, you don’t need to know so much to get great results!

 Take the sensible option and sit on the fence, go for all round moderation.

I know moderation isn’t fancy, but essentially that’s all it comes down too. Once you get over the perception that weight loss has to be hard, complicated and illusive. Then you will we have greater success in being able to moderate your lifestyle and food choices.

To get great results I use this technique I coin “nudging” with my clients. Nudging isn’t a dieting acronym either. It simply means we start with baby steps into losing weight.  We pick a few little healthy habits to start with, then we add a few more, then some more and next thing you know the weights dropped off and the healthy habits have built up. Hopefully snow balling into other areas of your life. Every step of the way, my clients learn new things about themselves and enjoyed food again. No good and bad lists, just food. Now that’s empowering!

Try this step-by-step guide:

1.     Out of site out of mind eating: How many times have you walked past the biscuit tin in the kitchen and grabbed a snack? More often than not if some thing is in plain view you will snack on it. Revamp your kitchen and place all food items away in cupboards so you aren’t tempted to eat each time you walk past.

2.     Down size,  reduce the size of your plates, bowel and cups. Research has shown this causes people to eat 22% less calories. Also I encourage to fill you plate up with veggies and salad first so it looks full before putting anything else more energy dense on there.

3.     Be prepared, always carry a snack and make a shopping list. This means thinking about where you’re going and how long your going to be out for. Have a game plan about where you can eat if your stuck out or carry dried nuts in your bag.

4.     Use flavour fatigue, the more variety you have, the more you eat. Pick 2-3 dishes for the week and repeat. This will allow you to buy in bulk, and save money on electricity. To add to this if you cook in bulk, you won’t over eat due to the excitement of new food every day. Routine with eating is a must, and I strongly suggest you eat the same breakfast everyday, it's one less meal you have to concentrate on.

5.     Develop a work out routine, aim to exercise at the same time every day if time allows. Coin that zone, "workout me time", where nothing else can get in the way. Make it a non-negotiable hour. That way exercising isn’t a conscious decision any more, it just happens.

Ready to nudge? Let me know how you go!